Mating stink bugs form a mirror image on the top of an almost-blooming gray-headed coneflower. Sarpy County, Nebraska
I really didn’t mean to focus my photography efforts on stink bugs and gray-headed coneflower last weekend, but that’s what seemed to be in front of me as I walked around (see my earlier post from this week). These two stink bugs were too busy to pay any attention to me as I tried to make good use of bright overcast light on a foggy morning.
Gray-headed coneflowers, by the way, are used heavily in prairie restoration (reconstruction) work because they establish quickly and the seed is relatively easy to harvest and/or cheap. In Nebraska, the species is really only native to the far eastern edge of the state, but still gets widely planted throughout the entire state.
Chris – I think I’ve already told you about this but some of the folks who follow your blog might be interested to know it.
My experience with gray-head coneflower in Lancaster and Seward Counties (just east of it’s unassisted range in Nebraska) is that it does very well and can actually spread aggressively. I’ve seen it spread from a restoration planting, where it was in part of a commercially-obtained seed mix, into a remnant prairie (Lancaster County) as well as spread from a small introduction in another remnant prairie to occupy a large area of the remnant (Seward County). At the Lancaster County site I’m steadily eradicating it with digging, pulling and herbicide. The Seward County site is State land so I’m not involved in the management, and it was first planted there in the early 1980’s.
Amazing, Stephen. It doesn’t tone down over time, as it does in plantings down here in eastern Missouri?
Chris, did you notice the one on the right is feeding through its soda-straw proboscis? A lot of bugs seem to enjoy eating during sex!
I now notice I incorrectly said “east of it’s unassisted range” when I meant west. No, what I’ve seen is just the opposite – continually spreading outward from the point of origin. Luckily it is a fairly large, distinctive, perennial, non-clonal plant – when I see an individual I can kill it. It’s only a matter of time before it’s eradicated from the restoration and remnant site that I’m able to work with.
I did think it looked like that, but didn’t expect to see it feeding on the flower head itself… So I figured it was just a funny angle…
I don’t have much experience with the coneflower, in terms of mgt, because I’m west of where it is usually at. But I do have a corner of a pasture I’m familiar with where it was planted in the 80’s and is hanging on through annual intensive grazing… I haven’t ever seen it bloom in 15 years, but it’s still there!
I agree with James from my Missouri experience. Although it may seem initially overwhelming, it decreases significantly over time in Missouri, remaining as a scattered component. It is fairly common and stable on roadsides, perhaps mowing weakens competition so that it can better compete. I have not seen it invade native prairie but will be more vigilant.